Awww. Sweetheart! They’re lovely. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, Buttercup!”
Max brought home a fragrant bouquet of flowers every week, and Lilah’s response was always the same. She looked forward to the surprise because, although it was weekly, the bouquet was never the same over the two years of their marriage. Valentine’s days were especially grand.
Lilah would receive an extravagant floral arrangement at work – along with jealous stares from the women in the office. “I wish my husband would send me flowers.” Her cubicle mate Fiona would say. Adding, “His idea of romance is falling asleep on my lap to a Netflix movie.”
“Same here! To the flowers, not the Netflix part.” Said Gabriella laughing. The newest member of the sales and marketing team.
“Lilah. Honestly. I hate it when you get these. We can’t even all see each other over the cubicle anymore.”
“Shut up, Jennifer. You’re just jelly.” Fiona retorted with a smirk that no one could see.
“No, seriously! For like two weeks, we have to work around your uber gigantic vase of flowers.”
“Good. We get some extra steps in, to and from the breakout room.” Lilah said. “Plus, I know you love looking at them.”
“I do, actually,” Jennifer said, jokingly bowing her head in shame.
The women worked for Alliance Inc. A software development company in the finance and wealth management industry. Their software is geared to banks and brokerage companies. Three of the big six banks are their clients, along with QTrade and IG.
Once a week, sometimes more depending on how crazy the day was. The four friends would meet up after work and go out for drinks. Sharing personal stories, venting and gossiping about the men in the office. Sometimes playing Kiss, Marry, Kill.
They would argue over silly things like the right way to hang toilet paper, peel a banana or eat a sandwich from the top or the bottom. Other times, they’d get political. Discussing current events or the latest from Bloomberg and The Economist.
Aside from their love of everything sales and marketing related, they all had a unified hatred for their boss. He was loud and obnoxious. Every woman in the office had stories of his lewd comments and inappropriate passes. Since he was a co-founder, HR was powerless, and in general, it’s a male-dominated environment.
You could count the women on eight fingers, in a company of over 200 employees. These after-work outings and their close friendship got them through the workweek. Week after week for the last three and a half years. Happy hours are cathartic.
Max would wait up for Lilah, listening in captivation to the details of her evening with the “Girls” – that was his name for the gang. Max would have a pot of ginger-lemon tea, waiting to counter any hangover effects. After Lilah got through her night-time routine, he’d pour her a cup, turn on their Midnight Jazz Spotify playlist and settle in on the love seat. Going to bed about thirty minutes later.
Max and Lilah were high school sweethearts, but they’d known each other almost their entire lives. They lived in the same neighbourhood, just a few houses down from each other. They went to the same daycare, Tiny Hands; elementary school, Maple Leaf; high school, Central Tech and finally York University.
At Tiny Hands, the educators noticed how close they were and would inform their parents when children were picked up at the end of the day. From there, regular play dates were arranged. The parents became close as well.
Lilah’s recollection of the first flowers she received from Max was at Maple Leaf. During afternoon recess, he’d plucked a handful of wildflowers from the southwest corner of the field. Max remembers it differently, and they’d playfully argue about it every chance they got.
“Boys do not give girls flowers in elementary school. The first time I gave you a flower, it was a red rose in grade nine for valentine’s day. I stuck to a cheesy card that I made out of construction paper.”
“Max! You don’t remember? We picked dandelions that day. Closed our eyes, made wishes and blew the seeds away. We’d all played tag, running through the wildflowers.” Max listens intently as if he’s hearing the story for the first time.
“One day,” Lilah continues, “while I was playing hopscotch with Jasmine and Daisy, you ran up to me, stuck your hand out with the wildflowers and said, “Here!” Then you ran off again.”
“Buttercup! No self-respecting boy would do that. My friends would have laughed me out of the school.”
“Maxwell! You did!”
Other times, they would reminisce about school dances and wonder what became of the friends they’d lost touch with.
Max was tall, 6′ 3′, built like a heavyweight UFC fighter. With dark brown hair and beautiful hazel eyes. His mother from Trinidad, Dad, from Italy. They met on a Caribbean cruise, and their love for each other, cruises and cuisine kept them together.
In the late summer, Lilah would participate in the tomato harvesting and jarring tradition with Max’s family. Holiday dinners at the Mancini’s were always large extravagant affairs. The decor, the music, and of course, the food.
Traditional Italian dishes; penne with mussels and vodka cream sauce, baccala, lasagne, lemon cream shrimp scampi with basil, gnocchi in brown butter with fresh sage, and panettone.
Traditional Trinidadian dishes; beef pastelles, pineapple ham with cloves, exquisitely seasoned turkey, ponche-de-creme, sorrel, and sweet bread. Although not a holiday staple, Mama Sue, would always make pelau because her husband Carmine, and Max, loved it.
From time to time, Mama Sue would surprise the family with a fusion dish – curry chicken pasta, doubles stuffed with sliced Italian meatballs and bruschetta.
Like Max, Lilah was born in Toronto, but both her parents are from Trinidad. As their families got to know each other, Mama Sue recognized a few names. It turns out their families lived in the same neighbourhood of Newtown, Port of Spain. It is as if it was always meant to be – a universe conspiracy. Lilah is a 5′ 7″ stunner – mother black, father Indian.
Lilah and Max were ready to get married after graduating from high school. Both families insisted they wait until their mid-twenties, at least. Lila’s mom said, “There is no expiry date on love. If you truly love each other, your love will last beyond the end of time. No need to rush. Finish university get your career started, then you’ll have our blessing.” Max’s parents agreed.
After they settled into their first jobs – Lilah, as a digital marketing coordinator, and Max as a junior architectural designer, it was time for them to plan their wedding. Knowing how much Lilah loves flowers, Max wanted to surprise her with a wedding dress made of fresh flowers somehow – hydrangeas, carnations, chrysanthemums and peonies.
Although an architect by trade, Max figured that with his design background, he could create a beautiful dress. To her mother’s surprise, Lilah agreed to Max’s offer – she trusted him and left the entire wedding plan to Max and the “Moms.” Lilah detested the word in-laws. Max partnered with Lilah’s mom Brenda, his mom Sue, the best florist he could find, and a bridal shop to bring the dress to life.
This was a great feat because husbands-to-be aren’t supposed to see their future wife’s dress before the wedding. After Max shared a draft of his design, the rest of the team worked together to make it happen. The design featured a sweetheart neckline with the entire bodice covered in white hydrangeas. The tiered or ball gown skirt would be a combination of all white carnations, chrysanthemums and peonies.
The women were eager to get started. They’d never heard of a wedding dress made of flowers and speculated on how this could be done. They learned of the best way to accomplish this when they met with the florist and designer from the bridal shop.
“First, bring your daughter in to select and get fitted for the dress. Then I can create an additional layer for the bodice and skirt. The florist would have to stick the flowers to the outer layer, then we can add it to the dress on the day of the wedding.”
“My only concern is with keeping the flowers fresh.” Said the flamboyant florist.” I’m going to need several little helpers. We would have to prepare the flowers the day of, attach them to the outer layer, keep it in a refrigerated van and get it to the church for you to attach it to the dress.”
The wedding went off without a hitch. Max choose For You by Kenny Lattimore as their wedding song. Before they danced the night away, the bodice and skirt floral layers were removed for the reception and placed back in the van. Lilah wanted to keep them. The florist dried them using a new technique to preserve the flowers forever. Max created a remarkable art piece with the bodice – that now hangs in their master bedroom. He used the skirt to cover the ceiling of their gazebo. When friends and family look up, they will see white carnations, chrysanthemums and peonies.
“Yes!” He continued. Clapping his hands together. “Timing is everything. If the petals start to wilt, it won’t be pretty. Girlfriend will also need a pastel-coloured bouquet.”
Lilah and Max love to spend their time under the gazebo year-round. They too, love to stare at the reminder of their loving relationship – delicate, magnificent, and magical. Worthy of attention.
“Awww. Sweetheart! They’re lovely.”
“With all my heart. I love you, Buttercup!”